Chondroitin sulfate has been revealed in a new investigation to considerably reduce pain, improve hand function, enhance grip strength and relieve morning stiffness for individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand, in comparison with patients in the placebo group. Results of the study are available in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

In the U.S., osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is estimated by the ACR to affect over 27 million adults. According to the Global Burden of Disease 2000 study from the World Health Organization (WHO), around 10% of the world population 60 years and over have OA. Previous investigations have discovered that OA of the hand affects 20% to 30% of adults. After 60 years of age, the incidence rose to over 50%.

Cem Gabay, M.D., with University Hospitals of Geneva in Switzerland and lead investigation of the Finger osteoArthritis Chondroitin Treatment Study (FACTS), explained:

"Although hand OA is highly prevalent among adults and can significantly impact the quality of life for suffers, therapeutic options are still limited. There are few trials examining therapeutic approaches specific to hand OA and much of the available evidence has been extrapolated from studies investigating other forms of OA."

162 patients with radiographic hand osteoarthritis were included in the single-center, placebo-controlled FACTS trial, all of whom met inclusion criteria, spontaneous hand pain on the visual analogue scale (VAS) of 40 mm (scale 0-100) or more and Functional Index for Hand OA (FIHOA) level of 6 (scale 0-30). The participants were divided into two groups, 80 patients received 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate, and 82 patients received a placebo once daily over a 6 month period.

Results revealed that in the chondroitin sulfate group, patients had a considerable reduction in global hand pain in comparison to the other group, displaying a decrease of 8.7 on the VAS. Chondroitin sulfate was also shown to substantially improve hand function, reflecting a decrease of over 2 points on the FIHOA, and reduce morning stiffness compared to the placebo group.

Dr. Gabay concluded:

"Our findings show chondroitin sulfate is a safe and effective treatment for patients with hand OA. Alternative therapies, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), provide similar pain reducing effects, but with considerably more long-term toxicities."

A naturally occurring molecule and a main component of joint cartilage, the chondroitin sulfate agent used in this investigation (Chondrosulf®) is licensed as a drug in Europe and not as a nutripharmaceutical; Chondroitin sulfate is sold in the United States as a supplement and usually paired with glucosamine.

Written by Grace Rattue